This year, I had the opportunity to attend Strange Loop. Strange Loop is an annual conference at St. Louis, MO, USA, and usually covers a wide range of cool topics, with some special love for distributed systems and new languages. I also got to attend the first ever Papers We Love conference! Papers We Love started as a meetup, where people got together to talk about the papers they love.

Here are the talks that I enjoyed, and a brief description about them:

“African Polyphony & Polyrhythm” by Chris Ford
Chris wrote the algorithm for Central African music in Clojure. Central African music is highly recursive, and so it’s so much easier to write them into a program than to scribe them on a musical score. I was inspired to use programming as a tool for preserving culture, or making beautiful things.

“Fold, paper, scissors - an exploration of origami’s fold and cut problem” by Amy Wibowo
Amy introduced us to the world of computational origami. She showed us how to make any polygon with a single (I repeat, single!) cut. The application of this is surprisingly diverse, from packaging for products with minimal waste to folding a satellite.

“A Frontend Server, Front to Back” by Zach Tellman
Zach talked about how the frontend server is built at FitBit. I have been working on implementing the JS fetch method, and learning a lot about how internet works. I wanted to learn more about what server does and how it’s made, and this talk was great! Especially the first half was really informative for me.

“Humanities x Technology” by Ashley Nelson-Hornstein
Ashley gave a very moving closing keynote on the first day of Strange Loop. In her talk, she gives concrete examples of how adding a human touch to technology makes it so much more powerful and convincing. In the tech world where it’s so easy to lose touch with the world outside of tech, I think she delivered her message persuasively.

“Languages for 3D Industrial Knitting” by Lea Albaugh
Lea showed us how she wrote a compiler for a knitting machine! That’s so cool. This talk became ininitely cooler after reading about Nike’s flyknit technology. Knitting is awesome, because it’s a technology we’re familiar with, there are established systems for mass producing, and it generates way less waste compared to sewing. Only if we can make knitting more high-tech (new compilers? new languages?)!

Now, these are the talks that I didn’t see it live, and want to see them:

“Unlimited Register Machines, Gödelization and Universality” by Tom Hall
Tom shows how to make a computing machine (unlimited register machine) in his talk. I don’t exactly know what that means, but I really want to learn!

“Tulip: A Language for Humans” by Sig Cox, Jeanine Adkisson
I heard in the hallway how awesome this talk is, so I want to see it. I wonder what kind of work goes into making a new language.

“End-to-end encryption: Behind the scenes” by Martin Kleppmann, Diana Vasile
What is end-to-end encryption? What does it mean when a message is encrypted? This talk is fun and includes a live demo with humans enacting encryption!

“Systems programming as a swiss army knife” by Julia Evans
Julia convinces people again why systems programming is not only for systems programmer, and why it’s a useful tool for everyone! Plus, her enthusiasm is so contagious!

I had a lot of fun jotting down concepts that I’ve never heard of, getting confused, and learning more about them. Thank you again to Strange Loop organizers and Rails Girls Summer of Code for the opportunity to learn!